Welch: CCH tax rebates on hold in wake of Cook County lawsuit
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com July 9, 2012 7:58PM
Updated: August 13, 2012 1:15PM
A lawsuit filed by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office against Country Club Hills seeking to have a $6.6 million overpayment returned immediately to the county has drawn the ire of Mayor Dwight Welch.
City officials say they don’t have the money, which Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas has acknowledged was paid to Country Club Hills by mistake.
“This is nothing but political folly by the inept Cook County treasurer and her staff,” Welch said. “Maria Pappas makes a major error publicly, and what she’s trying to do is victimize the people she made the major error to.”
Country Club Hills proposed repaying the money over five years, but after rejecting that plan, the county on July 3 filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court seeking immediate repayment of the full amount.
The lawsuit claimed Country Club Hills has started to issue property tax rebates to residents despite the outstanding balance. But Welch said the city attorney advised against sending out the rebates.
“You won’t find one check cut to one person,” Welch said.
Ald. Vincent Lockett (2nd) said the tax rebate program has been suspended indefinitely in light of the city’s financial woes. But he understood why the county sued, calling it a matter of “common sense, common law.”
“If you don’t get your money, you have to sue a person,” Lockett said. “The county admitted to their mistake that there was an error. We haven’t stood up to the fact that we got this money and spent it.”
The problem began with Country Club Hills borrowing $6.6 million via a short-term loan from Chase Bank in 2010 because Cook County was late in distributing the city’s share of property tax revenue.
The county repaid the bank loan in October 2011 with the tax money due to the city but erred in also giving Country Club Hills $7.2 million in property tax revenue — failing to subtract the $6.6 million used to pay off the bank loan.
City attorney John Murphy pitched the five-year payment plan in a May 22 letter in which he painted a dismal picture of the city’s finances. Country Club Hills will have a $9.6 million budget deficit by January 2013, even without repaying the county, the letter says.
Pappas declined to comment, saying the lawsuit was a “collection” matter.